The entry level Android handset market is one of the hottest and the primary driver of smartphone sales in the country. As brands capitalize on this segment, we’ve seen a proliferation of new players entering the market. ZTE too is aiming to capture a share of the market with the Blade G2. Let’s take a look at how capable this Android 4.2 running handset is.
First impressions matter a lot and unfortunately there’s not much here to differentiate the ZTE Blade G2 from the myriad other phones out there. The front of the phone is dominated by the 4.5 inch screen. The WVGA resolution is definitely disappointing but more on that in a bit. Above the display is the earpiece and front facing camera placed towards the right.
Below the display are the three standard Android buttons. You get backlit keys for the menu, back and settings key. These work as expected and trigger vibration feedback as well. Moving over to the right side of the phone you spot a lone power button.
The left side of the phone is where the volume rocker is placed. While the power button provides excellent tactile feedback, we found that the concave volume rocker key was set a bit too shallow.
Moving over to the back of the phone, you spot the ZTE logo set off center. A slit for the speaker can be seen in the lower right corner. Audio output from the speaker is tinny and not as loud as we’d have liked. The camera on the ZTE Blade G2 is placed centered in glossy island that provides sharp contrast to the matte finish back of the phone. There’s an LED flash as well placed to the left of the camera. We really liked the matte finish of the back panel on the ZTE Blade G2. Overall, aesthetically speaking the ZTE Blade G2 is a very run of the mill device however it manages to impress with its solid build quality and use of quality plastics. It won’t win any design awards but it’ll definitely be able to withstand the rigors of daily usage.
The phone runs a near stock build of Android 4.2.1 and this shows in the generally good performance of the phone. The interface elements remain stock for the most part but we noticed some very curious additions and changes that we’ll highlight below.
The standard lockscreen gesture to unlock the device is to drag and pull off the icon but ZTE has replaced it on the G2. You must now long press the lock button on the screen to unlock the device. Not only does this take longer, it just doesn’t feel natural.
Moving over to the main interface, you spot a decidedly clean homescreen. The only customization here is that the icon pack has been tweaked by ZTE. The icons link back to the stock apps so we’re not really sure why ZTE has even bothered with this. That said, its something that we can live with. A custom 3D weather widget has also been baked in. That’s all the customization you’ll see on the ZTE Blade G2. The near stock experience definitely works in its favor and results in a very fluid interface.
Powered by Mediatek’s MTK6589 System on Chip, the Blade G2 provides a decent balance between power, performance and pricing. Under the hood is a 1.2Ghz quad core processor with a PowerVR SGX544MP GPU paired with 512MB of RAM. The amount of RAM gives us cause for concern as it just isn’t sufficient for efficient multitasking and you are bound to run into performance issues sooner rather than later. Indeed, we could feel a hint of lag while jumping between apps with music running in the background. General performance is good and the phone can keep up with all kinds of usage. The use of a lower resolution panel means that the chipset has some performance headroom and this shows. Benchmarks aren’t really indicative of real life performance, more so in the entry level segment but we’ve included a few popular ones below.
In the CPU centric Quadrant benchmark, the phone scores 4071 points and ranks above average amongst the competition.
In the GPU centric GFXBenchmark, the phone scores 12 points which is once again right in the middle tier of the competition. As we mentioned earlier, benchmark performance shouldn’t be your sole yardstick to judge a phone. We found day to day performance on the Blade G2 to be more than satisfactory. Check out the complete set of Blade G2 Benchmarks here.
The fact that the ZTE Blade G2 comes with a FWVGA display puts it at a distinct disadvantage against the competition. 480 x 854 pixels spread across a 4.5 inch panel results in a screen that does show some signs of pixellation but it really isn’t as bad as you’d imagine. Looking beyond the screen, the color rendition is very good as are brightness levels.
The screen is quite visible in sunlight as well. Viewing angles while not the best in its category, are better than a lot of the competition. We’d say that if you can look beyond the lower resolution screen, the ZTE Blade G2 has a very usable and even half decent screen.
ZTE has blessed the Blade G2 with a 5MP camera unit that on first glance seems to be a step behind the curve considering the competition offers 8MP camera modules . You get an LED flash next to it as well as the ability to record video at up to Full HD resolution. The container format used however is 3gp which results in fairly heavy compression in saved videos.
Camera performance is pleasing given the price point of the handset. The 5MP handset delivers fairly noise free results. The poor dynamic range is very evident in how it underexposes the entire shadow region on the right however this is something that common across the board with handsets in this category.
Similarly it can be seen here how the camera blows the highlights in the lit up region in the background while underexposing the shadow regions. An HDR mode would have been helpful but we’re doubtful if the phone would be powerful enough to deliver a satisfactory experience with that. Camera performance is generally decent enough though low light shots are predictably a no go.
Connectivity & Battery Life
Connectivity options on the ZTE Blade G2 range from WiFi b/g/n, micro SD expansion and Bluetooth 4.0. GPS is also present for use with navigation apps. The phone has built in 4GB of storage of which about 1.4GB is available to the end user. This necessitates the usage of a micro SD card.
A 2,000 mAh removable battery pack is built into the handset that is rated for 750 minutes of 3G talktime. In day to day usage, the handset just about managed to scrape through a work day of usage time. As you can see above, the phone also has dual SIM card slots and only one of these supports 3G connectivity. The micro SD slot is located to the side and can be hotswapped.
We like what ZTE is bringing to the table with the Blade G2. The phone strikes a no-nonsense balance between price and performance. The build quality is reassuring and unlike some other upcoming brands, ZTE has done its homework and complies with all international safety regulations. We do wish that the phone shipped with a 720p display and 1GB of RAM. The lack of a high resolution display is something we can live with but the 512 MB of RAM is bound to be problematic sooner or later for enthusiastic users.
The MRP of the handset is Rs. 11,499 but the ZTE Blade G2 is available for just under Rs. 10,000 which makes the phone a really good deal. In fact we liked the phone well enough to give it a recommendation if you’re looking for an Android phone under Rs. 10,000. People looking for devices in that category should also check out the Lumia 520 if they are comfortable with Windows Phone.
- Build quality
- 512MB RAM
- FWVGA display
- Under 2GB user accessible memory